Mfuwe, Zambia, Thursday, May 6, 2010
Morning came quickly with a 5:45AM wake-up call. We headed down for a quick breakfast and at 6:30AM we were in a Land Rover headed out to the spot where we began our walking safari. This type of interaction with nature was begun over 60 years ago by Norman Carr whose daughter, Pam is our Classic Journeys guide. She learned to be a guide from her father. Peter was our guide for this walk and also Nathan, who carried a hunting rifle, was responsible for out safety. We walked in single file. Tom took his lighter lens, so close shots of animals had to be made at a close distance. We were shown an indigo plant with its sickle shaped seeds. The terrain was often rutted with animal tracks, making the walking a careful process to avoid the large, hardened footprints of hippos and elephants in a clay soil. Along the way, a lone elephant caught our scent and appeared to be tracking us. We had to hasten our pace and managed to avoid any danger, but it was dicey for a bit. This walk was truly close to nature and the big and tiny animals that inhabit this land - and it was fun!
After lunch, we headed in the direction of the "Greater Mfuwe International Airport" and two destinations included in the Classic Journeys itinerary: a local school, and the Textile Artisans. At the school, Charles, the principal, explained how government policies had greatly increased the number of children attending grades 1 - 9. Girls who had been previously not thought worthy of schooling usually were now welcome. The added expense of school uniforms was dispensed by making such uniforms optional. Student health and nutrition is looked after by the school since, "An ill or malnourished student is not a student who can learn." Besides the usual subjects of reading (English is introduced in 2nd grade), math, and geography, the students learn practical village activities like fishing (if there is a river), domestic duties, and weaving (for home consumption only - never saw any for sale anywhere) since many will not go beyond village life. The orphaned or semi-orphaned incidence is quite high (up to 25%) due to the HIV-AIDS problem. We saw the organic garden that the students maintain for their own "at school" food with any excess vegetables being sold to the local lodges to help support the schools that are meagerly funded. Many lodges sponsor a school and help build teacher housing which is located on the campus since there are no housing accommodations in the villages. The Chinese government has also made big financial contributions.
Anne was salivating as we entered the Textile Artisan conclave which was a few miles down the road from the school. We saw the process of hand painting the cotton cloth that included using using flour paste to mask the paint, the painting and mixing of the paint, the scraping of the starch residue from the cloth, and the drying of the fabric in a 150C continuous oven. Anne chose some particularly fine examples of this wonderful fabric made into pillow covers, handbags, and T-shirts.